Monday, April 20, 2015

What Is A "Synthetic" Gemstone?

On Etsy's forums today, someone posted a rant about "synthetic" stones being sold at places like Michael's and Hobby Lobby.  She meant "fake" when she said synthetic.  A lot of people think the word "synthetic" means fake.  But in the jewelry industry, a synthetic gemstone is NOT a fake!  It has a different meaning.

What Does Synthetic Mean In Jewelry?

Tairus Synthetic Emerald
Synthetic gemstones are real gemstones.  Rather than found in nature, they are grown in a lab and become man-made genuine gemstones.  They have the same physical, chemical and optical properties as their natural counterparts.  For example, a natural emerald is very expensive and has lots of inclusions in it.  A lab-created Emerald IS an Emerald, but because it's grown in a controlled environment, there are no inclusions and the result is a flawless and perfect Emerald.  There is a new created Emerald on the market, Tairus Synthetic Emeralds, and they can be found at  Here is their description of this synthetic Emerald:

"Created to exacting standards, using state-of-the-art gem-lab technology and minute attention to detail, this lab-created emerald has a chemical make-up identical to the finest Colombian emeralds. Its color is a more intense green than the natural stones can offer, and it performs at the bench just as a natural stone does."
 Are There Synthetic Diamonds?

Yes!  There are genuine Diamonds that are created in a lab, and possess the same physical, chemical and optical properties as natural Diamonds.  These are called "created diamonds" or "synthetic diamonds" and are ACTUAL diamonds, only lab-created rather than mined.  I like to compare synthetic gemstones to ice that you make in your freezer, versus natural ice that forms in a glacier:  they're both frozen water!

Synthetic Diamonds are made of pure Carbon and have a Mohs hardness of 10---the hardest mineral on Earth.

These synthetic Diamonds are less expensive than natural diamonds, but are still very expensive--almost the price of a natural diamond of that size.

Some terrible sellers on Etsy and Ebay (and elsewhere) sell Cubic Zirconia jewelry as "synthetic diamond" jewelry.  They are NOT!!  A CZ is not a synthetic diamond!  It's a simulated diamond.

Synthetic Diamonds have been manufactured in labs since the mid-1980s under such brand names as Gemesis.  The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) grades these synthetics (issuing an Identification Report) so there is no confusion in the marketplace between synthetics and natural Diamonds.

If you are buying a Synthetic Diamond, be SURE to get the GIA's Identification Report.  If the seller can't offer one, run away!!

What Are Gemstone and Diamond "Simulants"?

Dyed Sillimanite--NOT Gemstones
Simulated gemstones can be made out of anything----glass, crystal, lab-grown stones, natural stones etc.---and just look like a gemstone.  There are lots of simulated sapphires, emeralds, and rubies that are actually dyed Sillimanite, and they're hard to tell apart from the real gemstones to an untrained eye.  These dyed Sillimanite "emeralds", "rubies" and "sapphires" are VERY inexpensive and come mainly from India---and when you see very cheaply priced gemstones on Ebay and Etsy, this is what you're getting.  (Sad, but true.)

CZ Simulated Diamond
Cubic Zirconia (CZ) is the most popular Diamond simulant.  It's grown in a lab, and has "grades" of quality.  It's very affordable and looks the most like a flawless diamond.  And that's the problem---most natural diamonds are NOT colorless and flawless, so when you see a CZ and it's perfect, you can assume it's not a real diamond.

Moissanite (Silicon Carbide) is also a man-made stone and is a good diamond simulant.  Unlike a natural diamond which has a slightly yellowish color, Moissanite has a slightly green to greyish color.  It has a "double refraction" unlike Diamonds, making the stone much more fiery than a Diamond.

What Are Diamond Hybrids?

This is a term used by some manufacturers who coat a gemstone or simulant with a layer of synthetic diamond or  diamond-like carbon (DLC).  These coatings are durable but are not permanent, and can be scratched off or removed.

How Can I Be Sure Of What I'm Buying?

The FTC issues "Guides For The Jewelry Industry" and jewelers are required to disclose any treatments and synthetics.


  1. Sadly eBay has chosen to enjoy the money from fraudsters overseas instead of protecting their customers from everything you have mentioned in this article. Sad. Because I know so many people who have been fleeced and lost a fair amount money and become distrustful of everyone selling. Have you ever thought about doing an article on fake or inflated appraisals? I know that is becoming a new issue and not enough people know about it.

  2. Wow, you are SO right about phony appraisals! I have seen so many appraisals that are from "sketchy" gemologists (not really registered or actual gemologists) and even some real appraisals that have been photoshopped with other info about the "gem" described. Terrible!! I haven't written anything yet but it would be helpful (I hope) to get that info out there! Thanks!